Line-Maria Lång, Karen Vad Bruun and Cato Thau-Jensen
What happens when Dad suddenly finds a new love? The fact that his new love happens to be a man isn’t of vital importance in the picture book Frank mig her (“Frank Me Here”, not published in English). Rather, the point is to embrace the new people in the family when they make an effort – even if it’s difficult.
“Father says that he’s a proper ‘Frankophile’. That means he likes everything and anything to do with the Franks.” For example, French waffles, franked mail and Frankenstein’s monster. However, as the first-person narrator, a boy of kindergarten age, must admit, being a true Frankophile may also mean you suddenly want to live with someone named Frank. The title refers to the place in the story where the first-person narrator gets tired of Frank taking up so much space – he moves straight into the double bed: “It’s Frank me here and Frank me there.” The colloquial phrase “here, there and everywhere” lies unstated behind the utterance, and the story as a whole plays constantly with language. Later, the narrator has to resort to making lists to get a handle first on the disadvantages, and then on the advantages, of suddenly having someone named Frank living at their house.
The narrator’s voice credibly conveys a child’s perspective and logic, which rarely aligns with those of the adults. The boy doesn’t understand the father’s needs, as the father already “lives with the likes of me”. The quote “the likes of me” makes reference to the self-aware narrative voice of a child who has difficulty coming to terms with no longer being the only object of his father’s love.
The illustrations are full of colourful contrasts. Every object and every area on the page have seemingly been given their own colour and pattern of shading. This gives us a very vivid image. The naïve line and slightly skewed perspective emphasise the child’s point of view. There are also visual references which have a special appeal for the adult reader, such as the Marimekko duvet cover and a painting by David Hockney. Falling in love is also in the spotlight. The cover shows the father and Frank embracing and making meaningful eye contact, and the book has several scenes of physical closeness between the two. However, the point of the story is that new balances are formed between the three of them and no one has a patent on anyone else. The front page shows this nicely, with Frank holding the narrator’s hand, and the story ends where it began, with father and son spending time in the playhouse, but now with Frank in the background.
The white middle-class family with a mother, a father and two children takes up quite a lot of space in Danish children’s literature. Although there are now more books either about or based on divorced and reunited families, rainbow families are still an uncommon sight. Diversity isn’t the message here but simply a condition that strengthens the story’s credibility. It’s a story about accepting extensions of the family and giving in to something that is actually quite nice – such as there can be a lot of Lego (and water) in Frank’s big shoes.